In my childhood, spring onions would appear early summer in sandwich fillings and garnishing salads. The raw spring onion is not a favourite of mine with its after-taste lingering on…and on. In my years in Malta, I’ve bought them only on occasions when a dip required them. They seem to be grown in great quantities in winter in Malta so I expect we’re supposed to buy them in bulk…and for some recipe that’s lurking in a nonna’s kitchen but that I’ve not discovered yet. I’d be fascinated to know what other cooks do with them, in volume that is.
But, they do look perfect right now; fresh and redolent of early spring and tied up in twine in great heaps on the stalls. I decided today that I needed to take the plunge with the spring onion and find a way of using them cooked, not raw, that would suit my taste buds.
Saturday is our lunchtime soup day. Spring onion soup…that might just mellow them, I thought. The idea of using such cleansing vegetables – the onions along with their market stall neighbours fennel and leeks – appealed to me. A cleansing, healthy spring soup for a day with cold light and a biting wind that tugged at the tarpaulins over the stalls. I find February the coldest month in Malta, but the veg stalls spoke only of spring. Malta’s winter markets bear much of the same veg you’d see on a UK winter market, but with the bonus of much of the UK’s spring veg (and more), and some of its summer crops too.
The experimental soup turned out even better than I’d expected. It has a very mellow flavour that truly blends the three roots nicely. Nothing overpowering in this, but a spring-like subtlety to it. You can add a spoonful or two of single cream, but it does blend to a perfect creamy texture without. A swirl of olive oil and a few fennel seeds and fronds as decoration is all you need. These roots sweat down far quicker than say carrots and regular onions, so it can be all ready to eat within a half hour. A souperbe soup, indeed!
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- 1 large bunch of spring onions*
- 2 fennel bulbs, retain tops for some garnish
- 3 leeks
- 1 small chunk of Parmesan rind (if desired)
- 1 ltr water
- 100ml single cream (if desired)
- 2 tsbp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 knobs of butter
- fresh-ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- Remove and discard the outer skins and roots of all the vegetables. Slice up the vegetables finely. Heat a heavy-based, deep pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Toss in the sliced vegetables, give a good stir, add a pinch of sea salt and some pepper. Toss in a small piece of Parmesan rind. This adds a touch more depth of flavour. Reduce heat to low and cover so the vegetables sweat soft (around 10-15 minutes). Check from time to time to stir and to ensure they don’t brown or burn. The roots need to remain white and green but softened and slightly translucent.
- When ready, add the water and bring to a simmer for around 10 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the Parmesan rind. Allow to cool a little and then blend completely until smooth and velvety. Add a little cream at blending stage, if you like or if the soup is too thick, water down a bit. Return to the pan over a low-medium heat to reheat a bit. Serve topped with a few fennel seeds and fronds and a drizzle of olive oil.
- * We have very large spring onion bulbs in Malta, so you may need two bunches if you find smaller, slim onions. Alternatively, use more leeks.